All too often, business consulting is considered a generic label for the entire genre of consulting. When looking at the totality of types of consulting that can be provided by business consulting, it does encompass all the specialized areas from marketing to accounting to management and beyond. Just as there is an umbrella category that brings together all of the subspecialties, functional areas and activity that organizations undertake, there is a need for practitioners that integrate and practice business consulting as a integrated, specialized, strategic and tactical approach.

The term “business consultant” is as generic as a phone book category. The reality is that there are few business consultants who specialize and practice the integrative perspective multidisciplinary understanding of the components that make up a business organization. Business is not a single topic of study or expertise; the diagnostics, design, development, and analysis of the organization’s capabilities, potential and actions (including corrective actions) require the ability to envision the implications of all business decisions through time and across functions.

In the day-to-day business of organizations, what is frequently overlooked is the need to undertake this integrated approach to analyzing the business across functional roles and tasks. The success of an organization is greater than the sum of its parts. Success lies in the ability to align the functional activities across specialties and perspectives into cohesive actions that enable the organization to leverage the capabilities of each to the maximum effectiveness.

For businesses to succeed they must be able to understand, integrate, combine, manage and lead diverse activities fromthe people (human resources, marketing, operations, sales) to the numbers (finance, accounting) to the technical (compliance, legal, products, accounting) to the intangibles (leadership, image) and more. Large organizations have the functional groups, resources, teams and managers with diverse experience and expertise that complements and combines to enable them to cover “all” the bases when comprehensively looking at the business, but often do not focus on how all of these are integrated. Smaller organizations, especially new or early stage companies, rarely have the resources (or the desire) to put in place large numbers of people or build huge internal functional groups devoted to a single discipline. In both situations, an integrative business consultant can be particularly useful.

Traditionally, companies and advisory service firms have evolved to be functional area specialists, which are necessary, required, and invaluable resources, but are not sufficient. Why not? The business is composed of functional components that must work together efficiently and effectively to maximize resources and returns. The lack of focus on the integration of these individual components—the connection points and the relationships—creates imbalances, friction and gaps in performance.

Businesses are multifunctional entities; they need business specialists who have multi-disciplined, multifunctional expertise to analyze diagnose design and advise on the issue. No business can focus solely on “fixing” on a single component of its business, because any action impacts every other aspect of the organization. Let’s say you have a business that brings in a marketing consultant, who successfully implements a marketing campaign. If you turn on a hugely successful marketing campaign, the rest of the organization needs to be structured to scale up to deliver after the campaign works—but that isn’t the specialty of the marketing consultant. What happens when your business is inundated with prospects? What about the leads? You may get the leads, but that doesn’t mean you get the sales. Do you have trained sales people? Is your sales team ready? What about the rest of the organization? Is it equipped to support those leads and turn them into customers? You’ll need a prospecting system and sales people, sales order entry, customer service, order fulfillment, manufacturing, shipping, accounts receivable, inventory, computer support, administrative support, and so on.

Integrative business consulting looks across the organization, from the individual components to the connections and FOCUSES the organization as a business towards its objectives. It aligns resources toward those strategic objectives with financial, operational, and strategic components and the functional areas impacting each component to understand what is needed, when it will be needed, and how various activities and relationship will impact other relationships and resources.

The truth is: Successful businesses are successful because they are able to deal with more than sales, more than finance or accounting, more than marketing. They deal with it all. To greater and lesser degrees, they use specialists to execute the functional, tactical and transactional items in which specialists excel including marketing campaigns, taxes, legal and public relations. They may also use a specialist in business to pull together an integrated solution and operation to ensure those critical, experts bring it together profitably—in a coordinated, effective, efficient manner to deliver a bottom line that keeps the customer coming back for more. Take a look at your business: Are all the pieces properly aligned? Or is something overly emphasized with a bit too much focus or too little attention? Take the opportunity to ensure an integrated, fully functional business system is being put in place; any time you are working on one part of the business, remember the ripple effects that come from actions and changes.

And by all means, use experts with a focus on a single business area: they are wonderful, capable, experts who can improve your bottom line. But don’t strand them on an island in the middle of the ocean of change and expect them to solve all of your organization’s problems with a marketing plan, a new accounting system, or whatever the area of expertise. Unless they are taking a look at the total business to build your solution, you’re only getting one slice of the profitability pie.

Copyright ©2009 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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